Incorporate All Five Senses
To truly wow guests, JoAnn recommends involving all five senses -- sight, sound, smell, taste and touch -- throughout the wedding. For instance, it's not just about displaying the most colorful linens; it's about using rich fabrics and textures to elevate the entire feel of the table. Say you're serving a signature citrus cocktail -- display freshly sliced fruit at the bar to waft a welcoming aroma. "I love for guests to have a memorable experience," she says, which is best achieved through first taking care of your friends and family at their most basic sensory level.
Trust Seasoned Wedding Professionals
"Experience is the key to a great vendor," JoAnn says. Of course, we'd all love a perfectly smooth wedding day, but should a tricky situation arise, a skilled professional will be able to step in and manage it with ease. Whether it's the planner, the photographer, the caterer or anyone in between, remember you're entrusting these people with your memories. "You get what you pay for," she reminds us. So do your research, interview vendors carefully and hire people you know will have the track record to handle every detail from start to finish.
Let a Tent Transform Your Vision
For the most creative freedom, JoAnn suggests opting for a tented wedding. "The tent to me," she says, "is an empty canvas ready to be painted with lighting, flowers and decor." The options are limitless for design, of course, but just as important, for accommodating any number of guests. "Having a tented wedding also gives the couple that same freedom," she says with respect to the size of the party. If you're on the extreme ends of the guest-list spectrum (say, 50 or 500), tents allow you to perfectly control the environment as needed.
Be Open to Compromise
If you're experiencing difficult family and even religious differences, JoAnn says there's always a way to cater to everyone. She recalls a time when she was hired to plan two weddings for an interfaith couple (the bride was Catholic, and the groom was Hindu). It was important for them to show their guests both of their cultures fully, so they threw a traditional Indian wedding one day -- 300 people "with tenting and all the works," JoAnn says -- and a traditional Catholic one the next. However, since the local Catholic church wouldn't perform an interfaith union, they found a Unitarian church and rented benches, candles, crosses and anything else they could to make it look like a Catholic church (a special request of one devoutly religious grandmother). "That was a little over-the-top," she says, "but we pulled it off and had two very memorable weddings."